SYDNEY: Tablet sales will almost double in Australia this year, a trend predicted to have significant consequences for the telecoms, financial services and media industries, a report has suggested.

According to a report from Telsyte, the research firm, some 2.4m tablets should be sold in the country during 2012, compared with 1.4m in 2011.

This will follow on from the 188% expansion in purchase levels registered in the first half of the year, when shoppers acquired over 1m of these gadgets.

In terms of penetration, the company forecast that the current uptake rate of 15% would reach 30% in 2013, and surpass the 50% in 2016.

"Within four years half the population will be relying on such a device for a lot of their computing needs, covering education, entertainment, productivity and other applications," said Foad Fadaghi, the research director at Telsyte.

One primary factor influencing the marketplace is rising price competition, as more affordable offerings like Google's Nexus 7 and Microsoft's Surface make a mark.

Despite such challenges, Apple's iPad is expected to retain the lead role, and should claim approximately three-quarters of the market for at least the next 12 months.

Looking forward, Fadaghi asserted that when tablets become commonly available at lower pricepoints, it may be appealing for banks, telecoms groups and similar firms to provide them for free.

"Media companies might soon decide that it's cheaper to give away tablets than it is to operate printing plants," he added. "At $200 those sort of business models become more attractive."

Telsyte has also estimated that 20m smartphones will be in use in Australia by 2016. Approximately 12m people, more than half of the population, already own one, causing a change in habits reinforced by tablets.

"There is a clear shift in consumer preferences driven by the availability of apps that have been designed for specific tasks," said Fadaghi. "It's up to the computer industry to develop new products that can tap into this trend."

Gartner, the insights provider, reported that sales of laptops fell by 10.1% to 849k units in the second quarter of this year, when desktops logged a 7.5% dip, to 503k units.

"The personal computer used to be the device for all online activity but now smartphones and tablets have become very popular for content consumption," said Lillian Tay, an analyst at Gartner. "People have these devices with them at all times."

Data sourced from Telsyte; additional content by Warc staff